Tonight I leave for a week long adventure to Daytona Beach. I will embark on an 18ish hour charter bus ride with roughly 85 high school students and 14 or so other leaders. I will forego sleep and alone time and comforts and routine. I will miss out on making money as I can’t work all week. I will be uncomfortable and stretched. Daytona Beach is slated to be hot and sunny and possibly have some thunderstorms which means most likely high humidity. I’m nervous because of my recent reaction to the sun. Will I break out in a rash? Will I be able to apply enough sunscreen to avoid burning myself? I will miss my bed and my husband and my dog. I won’t be able to make my daily frozen protein shake that’s like a coffee milkshake treat. I may not get to workout because no sleep and a pre determined schedule. I mean, really, why am I doing this???
I actually paid to attend this camp. I paid to not make money and to give up my life for a week. I wholeheartedly agreed to this journey. And I will do this four more times, every summer for the next four years.
Three years ago, I was asked to help lead sixth grade girls in my church’s youth program Boom. I felt honored and agreed. I wanted to give back. My son was involved in the youth program and I felt grateful for how it had impacted his life. In our church, you begin leading in sixth grade and as long as you’re willing, you stay with your group every year until they graduate (yes, seven potential years of youth group leadership)! And we’re not talking once a week events. This is daily texts, coffee dates, sleepovers (I’m almost 40 and sleepovers even with adults aren’t really my thing). This means investing money, time, emotion into the lives of teens who are not your own. This includes getting covered in cornstarch during a color war or allowing ice cream to be smeared all over your face during the annual biggest ice cream sundae event. This means being silly, eating baby food, dancing and playing games.
So again, why would I do this? I’m not a naturally selfless person. I’m fairly controlling and definitely an introvert. I get anxious when I anticipate large group settings. While I’m a well spoken person, I dislike all eyes on me. I have great leadership abilities but prefer solo projects.
So seriously, why would anyone do this????
I do this because I know that it matters. It’s important to give to others. My life is amazing even in the darkest moments. I’ve always been taken care of even when my bills aren’t paid and my outlook seems grim.
I show up because my girls matter. They are unique and amazing and beautiful humans and I have grown to love them with all my heart. They are talented and fun and intelligent and kind and I am honored they let me be a part of their life.
I sacrifice of myself because I know that I’m not the only person in this world and caring only about my comforts not only destroys my insides but the world around me suffers greatly.
I stay with my girls because I have watched my sons leaders care for him selflessly. I see how much he looks up to them, how they are some of his greatest friends and how he relies on them when he needs guidance. I have watched them give when it’s hard, drive him around, help him pay for things, mentor him and love him with all of their being.
But mostly, I commit to them because I serve a Creator who has strategically placed people in my life to love me, to listen to me, to lift me up and to pour into me. I see His hand in my life and want to honor Him with my life. I know that I gain so much more by giving than I ever will with the pursuit of personal increase.
And let’s just remove God from the equation for a moment because not everyone who reads this believes He even exists.
All of the reasons to serve or sacrifice are valid regardless of your belief in Jesus. Being a giving human matters. Putting yourself aside for a moment (or a week) is a good thing. Trying to understand where a teenager is coming from is important. They are our future you know? Telling them how much they matter, showing them that their voice deserves to be heard, that’s real. Walking beside them when they struggle and cheering them on through their greatness, it’s invaluable.
So tonight I will load myself on a bus and attempt to sleep (maybe). I will shift my mindset to that of a freshman in high school. I will be as goofy or vulnerable as my girls need. And I am certain I will come home tired but full of joy. I will long for my routine but miss the trip. I will grow and surely cry and create memories with my girls that will hopefully impact us all forever.
In a world full of clearly hurting people, where kids shoot up their school and the suicide rate is over 100 people per day, doesn’t it seem to just make sense to take time to be kind to someone?